Empty lots are abundant and under-used

Tokyo is full of empty lots that mark the time between demolition and building. Sometimes they stay empty for more than a year. Most are turned into automated parking lots, some so small they only provide space for a single car. Some in busier neighborhoods get covered in gravel and host crepe shops in a trailer.

The empty lot above, just off Omotesando in Aoyama has three uses: tapioca drinks for sale, vending machines, and ashtrays for smokers. Considering the proximity to so much high-end shopping and so many people, it seems like a vastly under-utilized urban space.

It would be cool to see something more useful in these temporary spaces: energy generators, plants for shade and habitat, edible gardens, nurseries to grow and sell plants, attractive places for relaxation, socializing, and pets. Their design would need to be portable, modular, and generate some minimal income for the owner. Creating a prototype space for these liminal spaces would be a great project for a local government, corporation, or non-traditional marketing company.


  1. Hi!
    We are working on this research project for some time already and have started tagging some vacant spaces in Tokyo (Taito-ku, Shibuya-ku) to gauge the interest and interaction with these spaces.
    Have a look at http://www.tokyovoid.com which is growing fast!


    1. Thank you, Marieluise, for the link to TokyoVoid. Professor Suzuki at Nodai gave me a copy of your 2007 Journal of Landscape Architecture article, “The Private Use of Public Open Space in Tokyo: A Study of the Hybrid Landscape of Tokyo’s Informal Gardens,” which is very insightful. I am glad to see that you are still working in Tokyo, and hope that we might find a way to work together. We’d love to include your work on http://tokyo-diy-gardening.org/

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